A broken heart can feel like the end of the world. We may not realize it at the time but a broken heart causes physical pain to our bodies. Everyone deals with loss & grief differently, but make no mistake the pain is real.
Turning to your favorite food or cocktail can provide temporary relief, but getting physical, as in running, is a healthier coping tool. Not only does running stimulate brain chemicals that fight physical pain, its blood-pumping, stress-relieving mood- and brain-boosting benefits—the very things that make exercise good for you in general—make it especially valuable when suffering emotionally and mentally.
According to a 2010 study at Rutgers University, rejection activates the same areas of the brain as actual physical pain.
Much of the reason running helps can be traced to endorphins—feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression, provide pain relief and are responsible for the “runner’s high”—released during a run. Ditto for dopamine, another neurotransmitter released during periods of intense cardiovascular activity that has been shown to help counter mental dark clouds. According to a recent study from the Journal of Neuroscience, movement also increases the brain’s GABA neurotransmitters, which help to control anxiety and fear.
Helpful tips to get you going:
1. Join a group. When you don’t feel like running, joining a running group in your local area can provide much needed positive support. These are full of positive people who love running and can help motivate you in encouraging ways.
2. Find a friend. Even if your friends are not runners, there are some that will suit up for a run if they know it will help you. You might find a new running buddy in the process.
3. Find your routine. Routine may seem boring and unexciting, but regular achievement and physical exercise can really improve your mood. Consistency can be your best friend and do more for your mental state than you might realize.
Running may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re in the throes of a broken heart, but science and experience say it’s exactly what you need. So take a deep breath, lace up and hit the road (or a trail). Do it again and again and consider even training for a race. The long-term engagement will work wonders for you and your heart.